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Gwinnett County Board of Education, District 3

The 2 most pressing challenges facing Gwinnett County School system is: 1. The coronavirus pandemic and the school systems plans for next school year, what is it going to look like, how are we going to assure the health and safety of our students and staff and make that a top priority? We need to instill confidence in our teachers, students and staff by following health science, CDC guidelines and obtain accurate reporting data of infection rates within this county so we can get a true reflection of the spread. Furthermore, we must not open too soon and we must have the proper safety measures in place. 2. Lack of transparency and accountability. There needs to be transparency on how funds are being spent in this county. We need oversight. Tax payers want to know where their money is going and how it correlates to student achievement. The bottom line to all of this is the education of our children. There is a lot of money flowing in and out of Gwinnett County and there is no reason for us to not be able to fund universal pre-k for our kids as well as making sure we disburse funds to schools where there is a need and make sure we accept all federal funds for title one schools in pursuit of all schools of excellence.

As a school board member I want to get young people ready to move forward towards either a 4 year college, 2 year or technical school or trade certification program. Once they decide whatever track they want to pursue we need to help them get there and prepare them for the workforce where they can display their talents as graduates from Gwinnett county schools. With partnerships with businesses we can keep that talent right here in Gwinnett. They will become tax paying constituents of this county while being a direct product of our world class school system. Students who may not want to attend college need to be job ready when they leave high school. This can happen by guiding students towards the technical college, certification track or dual enrollment opportunities. Students need to be prepared for the job market and Gwinnett County Schools needs to be able to do that for them. I want to expand the work readiness within the school system. We have talented students within this district who are going to take different approaches in their education and whatever approach they take we want to insure that we are preparing them to be productive members of society and use their talents right here in Gwinnett.

I have been teaching in Gwinnett County for over 10 years. I have first hand knowledge of the strengths and the weaknesses of our students. I want to build on those strengths and find solutions for the weaknesses. I want to bridge those gaps and bring people together. For the strengths we are a diverse county and we acknowledge that. We value those differences and we encourage positive interactions within our diverse community. That is why people move here, start businesses here. I want the Gwinnett County school system to continue to thrive and become one of the best school systems in the nation. With this continued reputation, families will continue to move to this county which will drive our economy and support our local businesses. As far as positioning our system to educate our graduates for success we first must make sure we have the funding to support our students and teachers. How do we do that? Look for or reallocate funds that are being wasted or outdated and utilize that money in more productive ways to support student achievement. By supporting student achievement that means reducing standardized testing. Standardized achievement tests should not be used to evaluate the quality of education or evaluate a school’s staff effectiveness. That’s not what they are supposed to do. The large corporations and for-profit businesses that sell these standardized tests to satisfy their share-holders are stressing our children out, they are stressing out our teachers and that money can be allocated to help our children with their individual needs.

Priorities will always be the students of Gwinnett County. What cannot be cut are the food delivery programs that feed our children whether there is a pandemic or not. Feeding our students is a priority. Taking a look at the budget and seeing where cuts can be made without jeopardizing the students or teachers is a priority. But collaborating and close relationships with local governments such as the board of commissioners and legislators is also a priority. Now balancing essential school services once again boils down to funding. Lack of transparency of how money is being spent and where those funds are going is a priority. We need to reallocate funds to make sure there will be minimal cuts. I won’t identify areas where there is opportunity for cuts, but one area that I will identify is investments, or any major spending in organizations. Those funds being spent in other organizations that are meant for our school system, needs to stay in our school system.

We learned a lot during this pandemic and we as teachers and our students have shown that we are resilient. This pandemic has also shined a light on the digital divide and educational inequities that we have in this county. We must make sure that families have what they need in order to limit learning gaps. We can do this by partnering with businesses and making sure that the schools use their available resources in house such as chromebooks. Lastly, we must make sure there is a useful framework for pandemic planning that is comprehensive, adherent to CDC guidelines, and with teachers at the table. For example, grading challenges will be minimized, having teachers at the table who are familiar with the nuances of grading. This situation was unexpected but the teachers and students and parents stepped up to the plate and I congratulate them you.

By having a strategic plan i n place not strategic priorities which is what the county currently has adopted. Gwinnett needs action steps and well defined goals. These goals and action steps need to be developed and agreed upon by members of the community. These mandates that the community stakeholders must include input from parents, teachers, tax paying citizens, and students. We need their input to be part of the road map to change. These goals are a fluid metric that will be reviewed which will start with a baseline of issues and data to support it. Then there will be required oversight agreed upon by a diverse representation of the community. The school board’s job is to make decisions based on what is in the best interest for the district while simultaneously working with other board members to understand the concerns of their constituents and find solutions that meet the needs of all.

Partnering with the sheriff’s department and police department to make their presence known in the schools as mentors by establishing relationships with students. Changing the perception of law enforcement from a negative connotation to a positive one. Law enforcement will interact with the students to make sure they are safe and build their confidence through relationship building. With those relationships students will be more willing to play an intricate part of school safety by reporting suspicious or illegal activity to law enforcement.

As a school board member I want to bring in and create situations where the business community is investing financially into the school system. We have a booming film industry here and we need to employ Gwinnitians who have attended our world class schools that have prepared them to fill those positions. We need to start them early. We need students to realize that they can grow with a company. I would support more schools such as the Sekinger high school with the Artificial Intelligence theme. That is innovative. We need more schools along those lines in all zip codes in this county. When we offer new ways of learning we will see a change in a lot of the challenges in students behaviors and outlook on school as a whole. We want students to enjoy getting up in the morning to learn hands-on with a skill or some kind of training that they are passionate about. The AKS needs to include other

Encourage both Parents and the business community and volunteer to particpate on curriculum review boards. Maintain current dual enrollment programs and increase access online

I do not agree with performance pay because it promotes competition instead of collaboration. Special educators got the raw end of the deal in this formula. The formula that was devised was not well thought out and once again that goes back to transparency and having a diverse panel of teachers at the table to give their perspectives on how this would be equitable for all teachers. All teachers in Gwinnett County could have received over a thousand dollars a piece from the millions that was disbursed to the few. Children’s ability to learn stems from many factors that are beyond teacher control. All teachers work hard and some harder than others but we all are for the greater good of our students.

I do not agree with performance pay because it promotes competition instead of collaboration. Special educators got the raw end of the deal in this formula. The formula that was devised was not well thought out and once again that goes back to transparency and having a diverse panel of teachers at the table to give their perspectives on how this would be equitable for all teachers. All teachers in Gwinnett County could have received over a thousand dollars a piece from the millions that was disbursed to the few. Children’s ability to learn stems from many factors that are beyond teacher control. All teachers work hard and some harder than others but we all are for the greater good of our students.

The most pressing challenge facing GCPS is addressing the needs of the county’s pre-school age children to be ready for success in kindergarten; to read by grade three; and to graduate from high school in 13 years. To implement a solution to this challenge of early learning and school readiness, GCPS set in place two initiatives: (1) bringing families and their pre-school age children to its schools to assist them in preparing their children for success in kindergarten; and (2) launching a community-wide team of stakeholders to provide resources to fund early learning programs. My vision is for GCPS to implement this early learning initiative by providing leadership in the following areas: (1) community awareness; (2) high quality early learning resources and programs; and (3) a collective approach to success. GCPS believes that these measures will move the initiative forward. The second challenge facing GCPS includes increasing the number of students graduating from high school. This challenge also requires parental assistance and collaboration. My vision is for GCPS to implement this initiative in three areas: (1) review curriculum offerings to ensure that more choices and opportunities are available to assist students before they fall too far behind in their studies; (2) provide guidance and counseling support focused on those students needing assistance; and (3) review student behaviors and discipline measures to help students stay in school. To address the concern about student behaviors and discipline, the school system last December appointed a Discipline Code Review Committee. The committee has just completed their review and report. It will be presented at the June meeting of the Gwinnett Board of Education. GCPS believes that these measures will provide assistance with moving this challenge forward.

To adjust to changing dynamics within education and to ensure that GCPS remains successful in educating the workforce of tomorrow, I will double down on the benefit of the school system’s AKS curriculum and its GEMS Oversight Committee. GCPS has developed its Academic Knowledge Skills curriculum to provide trusted, reliable, and consistent teaching tools. The AKS provides continuity in academic instruction. As stated in the Board’s Core Beliefs and Commitments, the business of teaching and learning is built on a rigorous curriculum, effective instruction, and high-value assessments. To ensure that the AKS curriculum is responsive to community values, GCPS has for 25 years utilized input from its GEMS Oversight Committee. The group of nearly 100 community and business members, parents, teachers, and subject and course experts meets annually to review GCPS’ AKS curriculum and, when necessary, to recommend changes for approval by the Board of Education. Through the AKS, GCPS has reliable methods of educating the workforce of tomorrow. The new priority that I will support to ensure that GCPS is adjusts to a changing dynamic in education is the need to provide technology to serve students/homes without internet access are served instructionally. Over the last two years, GCPS has worked with internet providers to get as much service as possible for families. AT&T has agreed to install internet for $10. per month. Also, “hotspots” are being considered where large numbers are without internet access. A key component of this priority is having counselors, teachers, assistant principals, and principals determine why, during the COVID-19 pandemic, students did not respond to or keep up with instruction or why they were not participating online. To assist students instructionally, GCPS provided 1200 devices so that they could participate in online instruction.

During my tenure on the GCPS Board, I have contributed to GCPS being recognized as among the best and most innovating systems in the nation. I have brought personal and professional assets to the Board for more than 20 years. I have a record of leadership providing GCPS graduates with the knowledge, skills, and behaviors to be successful in the next levels of their educational pursuits and career choices. Academic assets that I bring to the Gwinnett Board include a Ph.D. in Education Administration from Georgia State University; a M.Ed. in Education and English from Emory University; and a BA in English and Philosophy from Loretto Heights College in Denver, Colorado. These academic assets helped me develop the judgment, knowledge, and temperament to contribute to the success of the Gwinnett Board of Education and GCPS’s K-12 school system. Professional assets that I bring include seven years as a public school teacher in California and Georgia and administrative leadership positions at Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, and Oglethorpe University. Also, for 20 years, I worked in leadership positions at Morris Brown College and Morehouse School of Medicine to raise private money for African American and other students to go to college, graduate school, and medical school—many who were the first in their families to do so.

GCPS’ highest priority is and always will be its students. GCPS has a long record of outstanding financial management as recognized by AAA Bond ratings from Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s financial services. To plan to balance essential school services with the need to cut significant spending related to COVID-19 impacts, GCPS is calculating reductions in operational items that can be delayed, including items such as HVAC and roof replacements. My priorities to balance essential services with the need to cut spending includes the following: (1) protect the school system’s AAA Bond rating from Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s; (2) protect the school system’s reserve fund; (3) protect the school calendar for 180 teaching days; and (4) protect to the extent possible personnel of the school system that now accounts for 88% of the GCPS school budget. The school system will continue to review this area as it knows more about the impact of the State budget on GCPS and make recommendations to the Board of Education.

It is important to point out that GCPS had prepared for Digital Learning over several years. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted daily life for GCPS requiring the system to respond immediately. It did so by providing online instruction to 180,500 students; by preparing and delivering 2.4 million breakfasts and lunches to students at 68 sites throughout the county; by delivering 9800 Chromebooks to students with no access to technology for Distance Learning; by providing 2400 lesson plans for teachers to supplement their online teaching; and by providing guidance to teachers and families regarding grading for online learning. The experience of the last three months of the 2019-20 school year has increased the system’s capability to provide online instruction to its students in every area. To prepare for future disruptions in teaching and learning, the system is compiling lessons learned in the areas of curriculum and instruction, school operations, finance and business, human resources, cybersecurity, data integrity, communications, facilities, food and nutrition, and school bus operations. Also, this summer GCPS is offering professional development courses in online and Distance Learning to its teachers.

I will continue to balance the needs of District 3 with the needs of all of GCPS. To do so, I receive guidance from SB 84 related to local boards of education and signed into law by Governor Deal in 2010. The law, still in effect, outlines the role and responsibility of elected school board members. SB 84 makes the following points: (1) school board members are not elected to represent individual constituencies; (2) they have no individual powers of their own; (3) they are to work together—not independently; and (4) they only have power when they act officially as a total board on the business of the board in a duly called official meeting. In my years of elected service as District 3 School Board member, I have made every vote with the understanding that my vote affects every student and every family in Gwinnett County Public Schools, not only the students and families who alive in the attendance areas of the 31 schools in District 3. I have worked to represent the interests of District 3 by studying issues, meeting with constituents, visiting schools in District 3, and bringing information to inform fellow board members of my constituents’ interests before votes are taken. In turn, I have brought information from the school system to constituents in District 3. During my tenure on the school board, I have been a visible supporter of public education and an advocate for all students, ethnicities, races, backgrounds, socio-economic levels, and academic abilities. I am proud of our Board’s adoption of the GCPS Core Beliefs and Commitments that affirms our commitment to educate all students to world-class standards and individual potential and to optimize the school effect to have a positive impact on every child.

Safety for all children, faculty, and staff is the highest priority of GCPS. I will continue to support the long-established and well-developed safety plan that GCPS implemented at all its school and system facilities for students, staff, faculty, and visitors to the schools. These plans involved several partnerships in development, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, and other companies and organizations that provide safety for schools. Another component of school safety that I support involves protecting GCPS cybersecurity systems. The system is continuously under attack by cybercrime organizations. These attacks are disruptive of teaching and learning. I will pursue cybersecurity by supporting the GCPS Information Security Program to maintain the integrity of its information based on national standards. I will support maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of parent, student, and employee information using leading-edge services to reduce the school district’s risk profile.

GCPS has had an innovation and transformation focus for many years. I will support continuation and expansion of these initiatives as they benefit the workforce needs of Gwinnett and of regional businesses. STEM and STEAM are entrepreneurship focused at several schools. Also, GCPS has seven Academy High Schools that have pathways that address career choices. Coleman STEAM Middle, McClure Health Sciences High School, Paul Duke STEM High School, and Lanier High School also address the workforce needs of Gwinnett and other regional businesses. The new Seckinger High School in the eastern part of the county will be the next GCPS high school to be built with a theme of Artificial Intelligence for the high school and the entire cluster of elementary and middle schools. Another GCPS initiative to meet workforce needs of Gwinnett and regional businesses includes Grayson High School and its technical program that covers cyber security, exercise physiology, welding, dental science, veterinary science, sports medicine, and entrepreneurship. As part of the “Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment” (CNLA), GCPS will decide and provide documentation of the labor market alignment for the school system’s career and technical education programs. GCPS is working directly with the Georgia Department of Labor and the local Gwinnett Chamber to develop labor market data as we continue planning of the CTE District offerings to for high wages, high skill, and in-demand career fields in the Gwinnett workforce of the future.

GCPS has the process of increased coordination of resources and alignment of curriculum between K-12 and Gwinnett post-secondary institutions. GCPS has a number of students taking advantage of this option. Georgia Gwinnett College and Gwinnett Technical College are the two institutions that most students choose. GCPS has options with DeKalb Technical College and Lanier Technical College. The “Move on When Ready” is another option for GCPS high school students allows articulation from secondary to post-secondary.

I support the GCPS decision to defer continuing its Performance-based Teacher Compensation system based on a number of factors. The program is based on performance and achievement data. The GCPS-based initiative requires a full year of instruction for the system to continue to implement the program. Also, GCPS does not have results from needed assessments. In 2019-20, GCPS students did not take the Milestones assessment as the State of Georgia did not provide them. In addition, the impact of COVID-19 moved teaching and learning online, another factor that limited testing and assessments. Finally, it is not clear which State mandated assessments will be required next year, thus impacting student performance and achievement data. The GCPS Performance-based Teacher Compensation system was implemented for the following reasons: (1) recognizing the top-performing teachers at every school acknowledges that, despite their differences, all schools have teachers who deserve to be celebrated; (2) rewarding outstanding teachers will help GCPS with teacher recruitment, retention, and morale, all of which impact student achievement; and (3) incentivizing top performance in every school will go a long way in helping GCPS improve the education provided across the district.

To improve incumbent teacher retention within GCPS, I support providing professional development opportunities as they progress in their teaching careers. Professional development tailored to the needs of teachers and their students and to the changing community expectations about public education are key components in recruiting and retaining teachers. I also support other programs in GCPS to improve teacher retention including all teachers having access to mentoring and collaboration opportunities. Additional programs include New Teacher Induction; yearlong curriculum and mentor support; digital communication centers; endorsement preparation (math, science, STEM, gifted, EL, coaching); curriculum-focused professional learning; support by program area throughout the year; and job shadowing opportunities for CTE teachers. Other resources that would help to recruit and retain new and experienced teachers include: continuation and expansion of Title II, Part A, which funds a significant portion of GCPS’ recruitment and retention budget; increased competitive grant opportunities for Teacher Residency programs between colleges and public school districts; forgivable loans and service scholarships for those who teach in a high-need field or location (SLP, School Psychologist, Autism, Physics, Computer Science, Advanced Math, and Science) for at least five years; increases in the current support for the Troops to Teachers Program; additional planning for special education teachers (management of caseloads); and additional endorsement programs for literacy and computer science.

Contact

Contact Paul Oh, Manager, Public Policy & Community Affairs, with questions.
770-232-8804 or pauloh@gwinnettchamber.org

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